Topaz: The Zone

It’s surprisingly hard to craft a laid-back groove and keep it interesting. Most of the time, musicians who attempt this feat lay back so far that the groove puts you to sleep. Topaz, thankfully, finds and works that middle ground between spirited and soporific, and on their third album terms it The Zone. Topaz’s music certainly does not lack forward momentum or musical invention, as the title track and “Walkabout” clearly demonstrate with their insistent, supple funk rhythms. It’s just that most of the time, given a choice between extroverted display and reserved cool, Topaz chooses the latter. “Minha Mente” refreshes the mind like a musical wintergreen spritz, with its minimalist lyrics (“In my mind”-that’s it) and gorgeous horn melodies, and “You & Me” is a tasty little morsel of hard yet decorous beats and lovely harmonies. When Topaz does decide to break free, as with “Naked”‘s gurgling beat and dizzy crescendo, the effect is heightened by the coolness surrounding it. The Zone won’t expand your mind, but it will both stimulate and relax it.